Given how super over-PC the world has become, it’s kind of a miracle that the buddy cop movie still even exists. The genre typically sees two mismatched guys – sometimes one’s a cop, sometimes they both are, and more often than not they’re from two different races – forced to investigate a crime together as they gradually become friends. Bless.
In this edition of the trope, Jackie Chan (recently honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award) plays Bennie, a Hong Kong detective who loses his partner, who he promises to care for the daughter of, Samantha (Fan Bingbing). Over the years, Bennie continues to pursue El Matador, who he believes is running the entire Hong Kong underworld and was responsible for his partner’s death.
On another side of the world, Johnny Knoxville’s all-American Connor Watts, is hanging upside-down in a bowling alley. The fast talker and hit with the ladies has managed to get in trouble with the Russians who he’s been captured by after some gambling in Macau. Unfortunately, while there, he saw something he wasn’t meant to see and met someone he wasn’t meant to meet – Samantha. Bennie is forced to retrieve Connor after Samantha gets in trouble, and so a long trek from Russia to Hong Kong commences.
Chan is of course no stranger to this particular body of films, having previously starred in the Rush Hour trilogy with Chris Tucker. But where those films (or at least the first two) succeeded and this one failed is in its embrace of silliness and shameless stereotyping, knowing it’s all for the purpose of comedy. Skiptrace, however, never quite succeeds in integrating the action and comedy.
Because Chan is a legend, there are some great action sequences, including a scene that takes place on wooden architecture built on a river, and a rather absurd fight choreography involving Russian dolls. Knoxville doesn’t have much to do in these scenes, and when he tries to bring the emotion, it just falls flat. Much like one picked up on in The Last Stand, in which he starred opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, he just doesn’t bring any oomph in a sidekick role.
Since the two leads are travelling across different countries to get to their final destination, there’s an integration of local cultures and traditions which, while interesting and a bit of craic, feel dumbed down for the film’s western audience. At one point, there’s an Adele singsong scene which is frankly just cringey. These moments provide set pieces or sources of humour rather than narrative drive and in the end, this is another problem of the film – too much is packed in and it’s just too long, clocking in at almost 2 hours.
At that, Skiptrace is not the worst original film Netflix has offered us, and it hasn’t been the worst from 2016 overall. In fact, box office wise, it didn’t do that bad. If you have around 100 minutes to kill, and feel like something to totally switch your brain off to, sure go for it.